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  • Writer's pictureTed Bush, President Local 135

Is your Neighborhood Station Empty?

For firefighters, every minute counts. Each call is a race against time. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) sets the standard for travel time, from a station to your home, at four minutes or less. In order to meet this standard, fire stations are located throughout the city — you’ve probably spotted one close to your neighborhood. In Wichita, however, that station may well be empty.

A fire station without firefighters is just a building. Due to the critically low number of firefighters, our neighborhood fire stations are often left covering much larger areas — increasing response times. This delay puts you, and our firefighters, at increased risk.

The video below is a demonstration of how quickly a fire can grow within minutes.

Currently, Wichita is using data points to try and predict where fire response will be needed. Unfortunately, emergencies don’t work like that and we have seen this policy hinder response.

In November, we saw this play out. A call reporting a house fire came in at 9:47 A.M. but the neighborhood fire station was not staffed. As a result, a typical two and a half minute response time (conservatively) increased to almost six minutes. Another unit, from across town, arrived at 9:53 A.M. to find an active and dangerous fire. On this day, the data based prediction failed. It actually slowed the fire response that citizens in Wichita depend on — and pay for.

Every fire station should have firefighters in them, regardless of what data predicts.

It simply makes no sense to empty one fire station to cover another, potentially delaying critical services. This results in a kind of zip code lottery, where people in some parts of the city may have to wait longer because a data system did not predict an emergency in their neighborhood. This is not acceptable to firefighters – the public deserves better service than this.

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